Tony Bennett announces resignation

Florida Education Commissioner Tony Bennett resigned Thursday amid controversy that he changed a school's grade in Indiana for a GOP donor, according to reports. 

During a press conference in Tallahassee, Bennett said he was stepping down because he did not want to be a distraction.

"I made a decision today in light of the malicious, unfounded reports out of Indiana, that it was not fair to Gov. Scott and his pursuit and his very hard work in making Florida the greatest in the country," said Bennett. 

Bennett said he spoke with Scott at length last night. Though Scott urged him to stay, he ultimately accepted his resignation.

"The decision to resign is mine and mine only," said Bennett.

Bennett was blasted this week after the Associated Press released a salvo of emails showing he changed a charter school's grade from a C to an A in Indiana. The school belonged to a prominent Republican donor.

Since then, several groups have been calling for his resignation. Bennett was hired in January this year by Gov. Rick Scott to lead the state's transition into new Common Core standards. He previously served as education commissioner in Indiana.

On Thursday, Bennett defended his actions.

"That wasn’t rigging anything. I believe we did the right thing for Indiana schools," he said. He added that he would ask Indiana's inspector general to investigate the issue.

"I am fearless about what they will find," he said. 

Bennett has recommended Pam Stewart step in as interim commissioner.

The news was welcomed by some local parents and groups.

Lisa Goldman, founder of Testing is not Teaching, an advocacy group in Palm Beach County, was happy with Bennett's resignation. The group fought Bennett's election as Commissioner earlier this year.

"Than man has been distraction since the day he walked into the state," said Goldman. "He changed the grade of a school of major donor, that’s wrong."

State Sen. Dwight Bullard, D-Cutler Bay, who called for Bennett's resignation on Monday said, "Parents and educators need to be assured that public education does not become a pawn in political games and schools are not graded based on political influence."

"Going forward, I sincerely hope Governor Scott welcomes the input of more than just a select few as he searches for a successor," Bullard said in a press release. or 954-747-3033, Twitter: @karen_yi

Copyright © 2018, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad